With the NBA Draft taking place in less than 36 hours, it’s time take a look at what the Cleveland Cavaliers may do with the eighth overall pick. Originally the Brooklyn Nets’ pick, the wine and gold acquired the No. 8 selection in the deal that sent Kyrie Irving to the Boston Celtics last summer.
It’s the first time they’ve had a top-10 selection since 2014 when they selected Andrew Wiggins with the first overall pick and sent him to Minnesota for Kevin Love.1 Although it’s the only pick that Cleveland currently owns Thursday night, things could potentially change if there’s a trade.
Although no one outside of the Cavs organization truly knows who Cleveland is really interested in or even their top priorities, there are a number of NBA analysts who have gotten a good sense of the Cavaliers’ thoughts. Keep in mind, it also depends on what the seven teams in front of them do as well, but still, mock drafts give us a good sense of what could happen.
Will they go with the best player available? Will they draft a specific position or need no matter who may be available? Will they go with LeBron insurance and draft a guy that can take over at small forward (and every other position because No. 23 plays all five positions) just in case James bolts for another team by mid-July? Who knows, honestly.
Keep in mind, the Cavs could potentially deal the player they select with the No. 8 pick either Thursday night or at some point this offseason, but they must select a player and cannot deal the pick prior to making the selection, at least in terms of officially making the swap. They could technically have a deal in place and basically be picking for another team, but we can guarantee that commissioner Adam Silver will say “With the eighth overall pick in the 2018 NBA Draft, the Cleveland Cavaliers select _____”.
Let’s take a look at some of the mock drafts that have been done by some very credible analysts who seem to have a sense of what the Cavs could possibly do and know their stuff when it comes to draft prospects:2
ESPN’s NBA Insiders: PG Shae Gilgeous-Alexander, Kentucky
One of the draft’s most interesting storylines will be seeing when the first point guard comes off the board. Gilgeous-Alexander is quietly picking up steam as potentially being that guy, which is somewhat unexpected after being projected behind Trae Young and Collin Sexton for most of the year.
He hasn’t worked out for the Cavs — we’re hearing he’s angling to be picked by the Hornets or the Clippers — but that might not matter much, as Cleveland’s front office appears to be enamored with him. The Cavs are in dire need of a young ball handler, whether LeBron James returns or not. Although not a big-time scorer, Gilgeous-Alexander is talented enough to take the keys as the PG of the future if LeBron bolts, yet versatile enough to coexist with James and add value with his length, feel, skill and instincts if he stays.
The Athletic’s Sam Vecenie: PG Trae Young, Oklahoma
Young is tough to get a handle on. Some teams absolutely love him. The teams that don’t like him have him as the third-best point guard in the class behind Sexton and Gilgeous-Alexander. But if he falls to this mid-lottery range, my guess is that one of the teams that loves him (Atlanta springs to mind) moves up. The other benefit of this pick, though, is that LeBron James is known to be a fan of Young’s game. We went through this years ago when LeBron loved Shabazz Napier, the Heat took him and LeBron left anyway. The Cavaliers should not be acquiescing to LeBron’s desires. But given that point guard was a significant need last year, Young would be a high-upside fit for a team with or without LeBron.
Sports Illustrated’s Jeremy Woo: PG Trae Young, Oklahoma
Cleveland would pounce on an opportunity to select Young in the event he’s available here. Some scouts believe he’s the most skilled player in the draft, pound-for-pound, and would be a terrific piece to put in place regardless of what LeBron James decides to do in July. The Cavs have had a hole at point guard since dealing Kyrie Irving, and Young’s playmaking ability and three-point shooting are both viewed as elite skills. There’s risk here if Young can’t produce enough offense to overcome what he gives up defensively, but the flipside of that is a team will know exactly what it has to cover for and can build their roster accordingly. Young’s floor as a prospect might be a little higher than some think, and he’s unlikely to slip past this spot.
The Ringer Staff: SF Mikal Bridges, Villanova
Mark Titus: If LeBron leaves, Cleveland is gonna be put in a situation that these next five years are huge. I am very fearful, as an Ohioan, that the Cleveland Cavaliers will never be relevant again. I think they just gotta basically stop the bleeding for these next five years and take the guy that makes the most sense, the best player that’s probably available at this point in the draft, the best two-way wing in the draft, Mikal Bridges. So that is my pick.
My biggest flaw as an NBA GM whenever we do these sorts of things is I always like the guys who are good players now … the guys that, I see how good you are right now, I need you on my team. [That’s] Mikal Bridges. [He was the] best player on Villanova. Jalen Brunson won National Player of the Year, [but] Jalen Brunson is not even the best player on his team—Mikal Bridges was definitely the best player on that team. … I love everything about his game, I think he’s the best player at the no. 8 spot, so I think that’s what the Cavs have to do.
NBA.com’s David Aldridge: PF/C Wendell Carter Jr., Duke
The Cavs, of course, could move this pick if it helps their chances of keeping LeBron James. But if they think they have any chance of keeping James—which they won’t likely know for sure on Draft night—and keep the pick, it would make sense to take Carter, who anchored the back of Duke’s zone defense as a freshman. There’s no guarantee he’ll be able to guard in space or on switches. But there’s a reason he’s been compared by many to Al Horford; he has a real knack for big plays at big moments, he was a rock playing next to a more flamboyant teammate (Joakim Noah 10 years ago with Horford at Florida; Bagley with Carter at Duke) and he’s tougher than people realize. Carter’s game could play next to Tristan Thompson’s and he should rebound immediately at the next level. Cleveland was wowed by Sexton as well, and they could use a young, dynamic point guard—so nothing, including the Cavs moving up to make sure they get one, would surprise.
CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish: PF/C Wendell Carter, Duke
Carter was Duke’s “other” frontcourt one-and-done standout — not quite as productive as Bagley but still really good. The 6-11 forward averaged 13.5 points, 9.1 rebounds, 2.1 blocks and 2.0 assists in 26.9 minutes per game while shooting 41.3 percent from 3-point range (on limited attempts) for a Duke team that advanced to the Elite Eight. His versatility on the offensive end of the court makes him an intriguing prospect. But whether he’ll be able to handle pick-and-roll situations on the defensive end is a reasonable concern unless Carter improves his foot speed.
NBADraft.net: PF/C Wendell Carter, Duke
Sporting News’ Chris Stone: SF/PF Michael Porter Jr. Missouri
Cleveland faces an uncertain future with LeBron James’ free agency decision looming large over the franchise. Having a top-10 pick alleviates some of the pressure, though.
Porter could function either as an understudy to James should he stay with the Cavaliers, or he could be the team’s next centerpiece. Alongside James, Porter’s outside shooting and secondary playmaking would shine. On his own, the 19-year-old would need to develop into a primary scorer, which is what most expected him to be coming out of high school before a back injury derailed his freshman season.
Bleacher Report’s Tyler Conway: PG Collin Sexton, Alabama
USA TODAY staff: PG Trae Young, Oklahoma
Is anyone surprised that Young wasn’t able to maintain his furious scoring pace for an entire season? The Cavs may benefit because other teams tried to poke holes in his obvious talent.